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U.S. Museum Exhibitions

The following guide to museum shows currently on view is compiled from Artforum’s three-times-yearly exhibition preview. Subscribe now to begin a year of Artforum—the world’s leading magazine of contemporary art. You’ll get all three big preview issues, featuring Artforum’s comprehensive advance roundups of the shows to see each season around the globe.

Liz Deschenes

ICA - INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, BOSTON
BOSTON
Through October 16
Curated by Eva Respini

Writing in 1896 about the relationship between photography and perception, Henri Bergson urged, “Call up the Leibnizian monads: Each is the mirror of the universe.” No artist has taken up this directive like Liz Deschenes. Rejecting the camera as a technology for imagemaking, the artist refuses photography’s traditional vocation as a machine of the visible. And yet the loss of optical reference in her abstract works means anything but a loss of connection to the world. Deschenes’s installations sensitize the spectator to the complex and often elliptical vectors of mediation that exceed the axis of mere representation, establishing monadic resonances between inside and outside that are by turns phenomenological, architectural, sociohistorical, and institutional. In this case, the institution will be the ICA Boston, whose midcareer retrospective for Deschenes includes more than twenty works and covers two decades of her remarkable production.

Devin Fore

Xaviera Simmons, Index Two, Composition Three, 2012, color photograph, 50 40". From “The Artist’s Museum.”

“The Artist’s Museum”

ICA - INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, BOSTON
BOSTON
November 16 - March 26, 2017
Curated by Dan Byers

It’s hardly surprising that the art museum, with its deeply ingrained protocols of accumulation and display, has frequently been the subject of artistic (and curatorial) interrogation. Such institutional ambitions would seem to lie on the side of practices Walter Benjamin famously aligned with the impulses of “the collector”—one who “brings together what belongs together” and who “by keeping in mind their affinities and their succession in time . . . can eventually furnish information” about those things. But artists whose programs are based on strategic accretions of objects of art, science, or natural history more often than not fall under Benjamin’s rubric of “allegorists,” gatherers who dislodge “things from their context” and rely on their own insights to “illuminate their meaning.” “The Artist’s Museum” explores such procedures of artistic illumination via thirty-odd works by figures such as Carol Bove, Rachel Harrison, Goshka Macuga, Christian Marclay, Xaviera Simmons, and Sara VanDerBeek; a substantial catalogue with essays by the curator, Claire Bishop, Lynne Cooke, and Ingrid Schaffner accompanies the exhibition.

Jeffrey Kastner

Gordon Parks, Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1952, gelatin silver print, 13 1/4 10 1/4".

“Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem”

THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
CHICAGO
Through August 28
Curated by Michal Raz-Russo

“Invisible Man” traces the artistic collaborations between photographer Gordon Parks and novelist Ralph Ellison (an avid recreational photographer who utilized photographic metaphors in his writing) via forty-five photographs; numerous related objects, including archival manuscripts; and an insightful catalogue. The show foregrounds their unpublished pictorial essay from 1948, “Harlem Is Nowhere,” which frames images of the neighborhood as both “document and symbol.” This collaboration focused on Harlem’s free, nonsegregated mental health clinic, which Ellison described as “a three-color camera capable of overlaying multiple dimensions of experience.” Also included is Parks’s photographic essay for Life, “A Man Becomes Invisible,” 1952, a striking series of surrealistic images that matched the emotional tenor of Ellison’s Invisible Man, published that same year. Illuminating both the parallels and divergences between Parks’s and Ellison’s work, this show promises a new perspective on the pair’s joint use of photography during the civil rights movement, a period of heightened attention to the rhetoric of images.

Solveig Nelson

Kerry James Marshall, Black Artist (Studio View), 2002, ink-jet print, 50 1/2 63".

“Kerry James Marshall: Mastry”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, CHICAGO (MCA CHICAGO)
CHICAGO
Through September 4
Curated by Dieter Roelstraete, Helen Molesworth, and Ian Alteveer

Kerry James Marshall’s art has long been read against the backdrop of the civil rights struggles of African Americans. Working within a self-imposed program of never painting a white figure, the sixty-year-old artist has spent decades offering a much-needed corrective to blind spots in Western pictorial traditions, while simultaneously representing histories too often left untold. The current climate of Black Lives Matter activism provides a devastating new lens through which to survey the Chicago-based artist’s work. Encompassing thirty-five years of Marshall’s oeuvre, and accompanied by a catalogue featuring essays by the exhibition’s curators, LA MoCA curator Lanka Tattersall, and poet and literary historian Elizabeth Alexander, “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” could hardly be more urgent. It is one of few upcoming exhibitions that promise to make waves beyond the art world. Travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Oct. 25, 2016–Jan. 30, 2017; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Feb. 26–June 17, 2017.

Jordan Kantor

“Ben Rivers: Urth”

THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY
CHICAGO
September 10 - November 6
Curated by Solveig vsteb

Utopia: It is no place. The word evokes unrealized visions and failed attempts, and yet the idea persists. Featuring recent work, including four films and a selection of drawings and photographs within a site-specific installation, “Urth,” Ben Rivers’s first museum exhibition in the US, will explore the artist-filmmaker’s long-standing interest in imagining other worlds within and beyond our own. Whether presenting a science-fictional portrait of four island societies on a drowned planet (Slow Action, 2010) or an intimate, seasonal diary shot in his own home (Things, 2014), Rivers uses the moving image to create alternate, distinct territories. “Urth” will debut a commission shot at the Biosphere 2 ecological research center in Arizona and will include screenings of two of the artist’s feature films. A monograph coproduced with Kunstverein in Hamburg, the Camden Arts Centre in London, and the Triennale di Milano will include essays by Melissa Gronlund, Ed Halter, and Andrea Picard and a comprehensive annotated filmography.

Erika Balsom

“The Propeller Group”

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, CHICAGO (MCA CHICAGO)
CHICAGO
Through November 13
Curated by Naomi Beckwith

The time-traveling sleuths behind the artist collective the Propeller Group will stage an exhibition whose inspiration, as chronicled in the accompanying catalogue, is a ceremony for reincarnation. The show will incorporate seven of the Ho Chi Minh City–based collective’s most critical forays into the ritualistic realm of death and birth—embracing film, installation, and sculpture—showcasing how these social-media-harnessing artists, obsessed with ersatz historic narratives and political spin, respond to the complex historic and current sociopolitical landscape of Vietnam. The group is fascinated with the contemporary maladies of a nation caught in the prism between communist ideology and neoliberal desire. Following their showcase at the Venice Biennale and solo presentation of The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music, 2014, at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, both in 2015, this first museum show is a must-see. Travels to the Phoenix Art Museum, Feb. 15–May 14, 2017; Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, June 3–Oct. 7, 2017.

Zoe Butt